With the buzz of the draft and free agency now winding down, it is time to start planning for your 2012 fantasy football team.
The key to dominating a draft is finding value that your non-obsessive opponents will not be able to, and the easiest place to start looking for that value is in the rookie class.
This year in particular there are a number of skilled position players that will make huge contributions to their team.
This is a list of rookies who will be especially strong fantasy players this year; so while “that guy” is asking if Tiki Barber is still available, you should be getting great value from a mid-to-late-round selection of one of these five players.
Note: These players were picked based on their role with the team that drafted them, as well as their developmental progress. A player’s production in college can be a good indicator of this; for example, Georgia Tech wideout Stephen Hill is a great prospect for the Jets and fills a need at receiver, but he is too raw to have a fantasy impact immediately and his average college production reflects that.
Vitals: 6’2”, 223 pounds
2011 Stats: 72.4 percent completion, 4,293 passing yards, 37 touchdowns and six interceptions
The Redskins spent all offseason preparing to make Griffin their quarterback, and they have surrounded him with some decent weapons to work with. It is Griffin’s running ability that will ultimately make him a dangerous fantasy quarterback, however.
Head coach Mike Shanahan’s offense will feature Griffin running a lot of bootlegs to both sides, giving him plenty of opportunities to show his abilities as a passer and as a runner. Griffin also shows great ball security—37 touchdowns and six picks last season at Baylor—and should be particularly dangerous in the red zone with big targets like Pierre Garcon, Fred Davis and Chris Cooley.
Vitals: 5’9”, 228 pounds
2011 Stats: 283 carries, 1679 rushing yards, 5.9 yards per carry and 21 touchdowns
Richardson will not only be the most prominent player in the Browns’ backfield, he will be the most important player on their entire offense.
Richardson has every tool to succeed as an NFL running back—speed, agility, power and vision. He will only be limited by the Browns’ offense as they adjust to rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden and several other new faces.
Vitals: 5’10”, 196 pounds
2011 Stats: 108 catches, 1663 receiving yards, 15.4 yards per catch and 14 touchdowns
Wright is an NFL-ready receiver who should make an immediate impact for the Titans. Wright has the hands and body type to play in the slot and make catches over the middle and should find a niche there right away.
Wright is the type of receiver that coaches love—he is physical, good after the catch and runs his routes well. He lacks height and elite speed, but he is a good athlete who should be able to come in and mesh well with Kenny Britt and Nate Washington, forming a nice trio of receivers for the Titans.
School: Boise State
Vitals: 5’9”, 223 pounds
2011 Stats: 263 carries, 1299 yards, 4.9 yards per carry and 16 touchdowns
Martin is a workhorse from Boise State who should come in and earn a good share of the carries in Tampa Bay.
LeGarrette Blount regressed slightly last year, averaging only 4.2 yards per carry compared to his 5.0 average in 2010. He also proved to be somewhat one-dimensional and has been ineffective as a receiver out of the backfield.
Martin shows the quickness, patience and toughness to be an NFL runner, and he can be of use in the passing game as a blocker or a receiver. Martin should put up solid numbers in his rookie season on a revamped Bucs offense.
School: Virginia Tech
Vitals: 5’10”, 206 pounds
2011 Stats: 290 carries, 1709 yards, 5.9 yards per carry and 9 touchdowns
Wilson is an explosive athlete who fits in perfectly with the Giants.
Wilson had an outstanding combine and can run with anyone in the draft. He is fast, agile, and makes quick cuts that keep him moving north to south.
Ahmad Bradshaw had a down year in 2011, averaging just 3.9 yards per carry in 12 games. There is room for a fast, explosive runner like Wilson in the Giants’ backfield, and Wilson’s speed, agility and experience returning kickoffs all suggest he would thrive as a receiver out of the backfield.
Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts: Nothing against Luck as a player, but the Colts are just too weak at too many offensive positions for him to be a fantasy lock. He could easily prove me wrong and have a 26-touchdown season (like the rookie campaign Peyton Manning turned in).
Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars: Blackmon has big-time potential, but Gabbert and the Jags’ offensive line will restrict his fantasy value.
Rueben Randle, WR, New York Giants: Another good, athletic prospect, Randle may struggle to get his touches while sharing the field with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.